Essay, Research Paper: Grendal Of Beowulf


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It is true that Grendel is monstrous. He is not only a deadly enemy to Hrothgar
and Herot, but to the Geats in general. Grendel seems to take his only pleasure
from assaulting Herot and destroying the warriors inside. He is a bane to all
those that live under Hrothgar's rule. They hate him. He is called the “enemy
of mankind” (29) and rightly so. However, because of Grendel’s actions, they
cannot see the other part of Grendel that makes him do the evil he does. Grendel,
like the Angels before and the Geats soon after, is symbolic of displaced
races/peoples and not simply a mindless monster. When Adam and Eve had children,
they had two boys. Their names were Cain and Able. When Cain killed Able, God
“banished him far from mankind” (29). From Cain came trolls, elves,
monsters, and giants. Grendel is a descendant of Cain, so he shares Cain’s
banishment. Cain may have been the first displaced person after Adam and Eve
were thrown out of the Garden. Grendel shares his ancestor’s sentence. He is
displaced not only from whatever land or wealth he would have if he were
“human” but he is also displaced form God. It is this displacement that
causes Grendel to destroy. Since he cannot “approach the throne” (28) like
other people, he chooses to try to destroy the throne, because he has “no love
for him (God)” (28). This is the main reason Grendel is symbolic of displaced
peoples. After all, he is a direct descendent of the very first displaced
people, Adam and Eve. However, unlike Adam and Eve, Grendel is doomed to an
eternity of banishment from God’s light because of Cain’s sin against his
brother. That is why Grendel kills, because he cannot be in the light, because
he is at war with God. Grendel is not only banished from God’s light, but from
the light in general. Throughout the text, references are made to Grendel as
“the walker in darkness” (36), and “the dark-death shadow” (29). This
kind of imagery further shows how displaced Grendel has become. The text refers
to him as a “creature deprived of joy” (36). The text also refers to
Grendel’s dwelling as “his joyless home” (37). It is no wonder Grendel was
considered so monstrous. Like other displaced peoples, he has nowhere that is a
refuge to him, because he has been removed from his home, or in Grendel’s
case, the love of the Lord. Grendel, like other displaced peoples, did not
accept his banishment without a fight. Like other displaced peoples, Grendel
fought back. He had no sorrow over the killings he committed. He did them
willingly. The reason behind Grendel’s slaughter is not because he is a
mindless beast, but because he is jealous over not being able to share in the
Geat’s feasting and celebrating under God’s love. Grendel has been
permanently kicked out of the light. And like any race that has lost his or her
land or home, he fought back, if not to get back in the light, then to at least
make sure no one else can enjoy it. Grendel can have no peace as long as he sees
God’s people celebrating and living in a way he will never be able to.
That’s why Grendel, “driven by evil desire and swollen with rage” (36),
worked so hard at attempting to destroy Herot. In Grendel’s mind, if he could
deprive the Geats of their meadhall, which they loved so much, then they would
be like him: a people with no home and with no joy. Grendel, being symbolic of
displaced peoples, also makes him very symbolic of the Angels. Grendel’s tale
shares many similarities with the Angels. While God pushed Grendel into exile,
the Vikings forced the Angels from their land. Both Grendel and the Angels were
forced to retreat under duress. Both of them also fought back. Grendel waged his
battle against Herot and Hrothgar people while the Angels battled with the Danes
for control of England. However, while the Angels won against the Vikings and
formed a truce, Beowulf destroyed Grendel. The Angels are just one of many
misplaced races whose story of destruction is mirrored by that of Grendel’s.
Grendel is not just a simple killer, a monster who lived under the bed or in a
dark cave in the woods. He is much more. His is a tale of loss, sorrow,
resistance, and death that has been seen in numerous cultures and peoples
throughout the centuries.
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